Passengers Laid Bare as Full Body Scanners Are Introduced at Heathrow and Manchester Airports

  • Travellers chosen for scan must cooperate – or face flight ban              
  • Airport bosses: Race, religion or ethnicity not a consideration
  • 60 passengers scanned at Manchester ‘without incident’

The introduction of full body scanners at Heathrow and Manchester airports has today caused outrage among civil liberty campaigners who say that they are an invasion of privacy.

Campaigners claim the scanners, which act like a mini radar device ‘seeing’ beneath ordinary clothing, breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act.

The exemption of under 18s from being scanned, which was in place during the trial of the machines in Manchester amid fears the scanners could breach child protection laws, has also been removed.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also warned that using profiling techniques to single out Muslims, Asians and black people for scanning at airports could breach race and religious discrimination laws introduced by the government.

It was also revealed yesterday that air passengers who refuse to submit to a full body scan at Heathrow and Manchester airports will be barred from taking their flights.

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The scanners have been introduced in the wake of a failed attempt by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a transatlantic jet on Christmas Day.

Airport bosses at Manchester and Heathrow said those selected for scanning are not being chosen on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity.

They will instead scan passengers if they raise the suspicion of security officers following a hand search or unsolved metal detection alarm.

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They will also go through if explosive or vapour trace detection equipment causes an alarm to sound or if they request a private search prior to or after passing through the walk-through metal detection equipment.

The first passengers at Manchester Airport who used the scanner backed the controversial measure.

In the first hour after the machine was made compulsory around 60 people were scanned at Manchester.

Andrew Mark, 46, from Wolverhampton, was among the first to be selected.

Mr Mark said: ‘We have nothing to hide so it’s not a problem. It didn’t seem to hold us up either as it only takes a few seconds.’

But another passenger, Pakize Durmaz, 34, called on airport staff to explain to passengers why they had been chosen.

‘The process is really easy and I felt comfortable going through it but I didn’t really know what they were doing. They told us we had been chosen at random but I think they should give better reasons why people are picked,’ she said.

At Heathrow, Richard and Susan Winter described the machines as an invasion of privacy but said they understood why there were being introduced.

The married couple from Folkestone in Kent were flying to Sri Lanka this evening.

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Housewife Mrs Winter, 55, said: ‘I feel it is incredibly intrusive but this is the price we have to pay in the modern world.

‘For security reasons it is a good thing – it is better to do this than let someone creep on with a shoe bomb.

‘I feel it will invade my privacy but if it ends up saving lives it is important and worth doing.

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‘We flew in the aftermath of 9/11 and there was a real air of suspicion between passengers. Hopefully this will eliminate that.’

Mr Winter, a 66-year-old retired chauffeur, added: ‘You have got to say yes to it because no-one wants to be blown out of a plane.

‘It’s an unfortunate necessity – it would be lovely to be in a world with no trouble but there’s no avoiding it.’

Keith and Anne Bird, a retired couple from Basingstoke, Hampshire, were waiting to board the same plane.

Mr Bird, 66, said: ‘I have no problem at all. There is so much intrusion into our lives these days I think that walking through the scanners will be like water off a duck’s back.

‘In some ways I prefer it to the amount of CCTV there is because it serves a definite purpose – to protect people.

‘You don’t see people marching in the streets about this – it really is not an issue.’

His 65-year-old wife agreed. She said: ‘I don’t see any problems with having my body scanned. Anything that makes flying safer is a good thing.’

Edward Smith, 38, was flying to Singapore this evening.

The business consultant from Blackburn in Lancashire said: ‘Measures such as these are vital because terrorists do not play by the rules.

‘We must use every piece of technology possible to disrupt them and prevent them from creating more atrocities.’

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February 5, 2010